Friday, September 25, 2009

Making Disciples Intellectually

This is Post #5 of the Sacred Roads: Tools for the Tour Guides blog series. Sacred Roads is a new curriculum published by Threads that helps participants explore and experiment with Biblical and historical expressions of discipleship. The Sacred Roads small group curriculum and leader kits are available at

This blog series provides tips and ideas for discipleship pastors and small group leaders who are charged with facilitating the discipleship process for others.

As the Dark Ages lifted, the world became more driven by science than superstition and reason than religion. The Renaissance, the Age of Reason, and the Age of Enlightenment elevated the importance and primacy of human reason over experience. New voices emerged in the theological debate and introduced an intellectual approach to discipleship.

In intellectual discipleship, people were taught about Christ and grew in their relationship with him through a systematic, academic study of Scripture and the writings of Godly teachers. This article provides some ideas for incorporating intellectual methods of discipleship in the environments you lead.

Study Well
Oliver Wendell Holmes said, "Man's mind, once stretched by a new idea, never regains its original dimensions." Paul might call it "renewing our mind"-- making it more like Christ's. If we want to guide people along intellectual roads of discipleship, we've got to be constantly learning and growing ourselves. We need to exercise our mind, stretch it, and make it wrestle with the Scriptures.

And while some of us may not like it-- leaders are learners. Which often means leaders are readers. Set some goals for personal study-- both in the Scriptures and from the writings of the church fathers (both ancient and contemporary). Review basic doctrine and assess how well your actions line up with the convictions you claim to possess. Dive into a section of Scripture that you have not explored in a while.

Review the Creeds
Gather up the people you lead and spend a night reviewing the Creeds-- Nicene, Apostles, the confession or statement of beliefs of your own denomination. Learning a little bit about the historical underpinnings of each might be a helpful and enlightening dimension to such a study. Check out as a resource.

Study Theology
To most, it probably sounds stale and less fun than cleaning the lint tray from your dryer. But for some folks, a brief introduction to good theology-- the kind that helps you see God more clearly and elevates his character-- might be a major turning point in their spiritual journey. And the reality is that everyone is a theologian. If you have thoughts about God, you are practicing theology. The question is, are you a good theologian? Here are a few suggestions:
  • Read Galatians and Romans. Compare and contrast and discuss the evolution of Paul's theology.
  • Read Who Needs Theology? or Across the Spectrum as a group and discuss.
  • Write a statement of faith for your community.
Teach Proper Bible Study Methods
We are ministering in a Biblically and theologically illiterate generation. Don't assume that the people you lead know the basic stories or doctrines of our faith. Find an environment for modeling and teaching good Bible study methods. Teach them the importance of reading, memorizing, meditating, and studying Scripture. At NCC, we use Rick Warren's Bible Study Methods for a 3-week class on studying the Bible. If you are in a position of teaching or preaching, utilize the sermon to model Biblical study and interpretation. Create tools and assemble resources for helping the people you lead become better students of the Word.

These are just a few ideas. You can also dive into massive Scripture memorization, apologetics, inductive Bible study, the reading of the classics, interfaith dialogue, etc. What are some ways that you have practiced (or would like to explore) intellectual roads of disciple-making?


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